WASHINGTON — Young Israel, an American Orthodox organization that recently expressed support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political pact with the anti-Arab Otzma Yehudit party, announced Thursday its statement did not represent the views of every Orthodox synagogue affiliated with it.
This is the latest sign of disagreements within the American Orthodox community over Netanyahu’s dealings with the extremist Otzma Yehudit, which promotes the views of the late racist Rabbi Meir Kahane.
The organization released a clarification written by its president, Farley Weiss, explaining that the earlier statement represented the views of some of its board members — but not of the entire movement.
Weiss wrote that the initial statement “represented my personal views and that of many on our board, but may not reflect the view of all of the Young Israel synagogues.”
Last Monday, Young Israel told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that it supports Netanyahu on this issue. The organization, which represents more than 100 Orthodox synagogues across the United States, was the first national Jewish group to express support for Netanyahu. The statement came after Otzma Yehudit was denounced by leading pro-Israeli groups such as AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee, and after Netanyahu was strongly criticized by the Union for Reform Judaism, the Israel Policy Forum and other organizations.
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Netanyahu had successfully urged Otzma Yehudit to unite with another far-right party, Habayit Hayehudi, ahead of the April 9 election.
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Young Israel’s statement adopted Netanyahu’s political explanation for his dealings with Otzma Yehudit, explaining it was necessary in order to ensure a right-wing government — despite the fact that all recent election polls in Israel show the left-wing bloc has no real chance of forming a government coalition after the election.
The statement led Deborah Lipstadt, one of the world's most prominent Holocaust historians, to announce that she is leaving her local synagogue, which is affiliated with Young Israel. A JTA report quoted her as saying: “I cannot be associated with an organization that gives such racism, celebration of violence, and immoral policies a hechsher.”
Earlier this week, Haaretz reported that dozens of Modern Orthodox rabbis condemned Netanyahu’s deal with Otzma Yehudit. The rabbis wrote in a public letter: “The prime minister has a legitimate desire to win victory for his bloc in a hotly contested election. However, in this case, the ends do not justify the means. This deal with a detestable group to get them into the Knesset will give a black eye to Israel and its standing in the world as a moral and democratic state. This is truly a lamentable failure on the part of a leader who has focused his life on Israel's security and on strengthening its international standing.”